I’ve been growing a little concerned about the return of Bob’s Burgers. Obviously I like the show, having reviewed it last year in its first season, and having grown increasingly fond of it over that time. It just seems like it might be in the process of being oversold – being an occasionally wonderful show doesn’t make you the new Simpsons. There’s more than enough to enjoy about Bob’s Burgers without weighing it down with an excess of expectations. If it happens to turn into a show where every episode is as good as “Art Crawl” then I’ll be happy to re-adjust, but until then, I’m happy to enjoy Bob’s for what it is more than hopes for its future greatness.
This isn’t hard. “The Belchies” is a strong episode to come back to, highlighting many of Bob’s strengths. The thing that consistently makes this show so pleasant (and occasionally awesome) to watch is the interplay between the main characters. Sending the kids out on a treasure hunt while Bob and Linda try to have sex? Those are two almost perfect mechanisms for showing who these characters are and letting them bounce off one another. The Bob’s cast records “live,” which the voice actors in the same room as one another, which gives the show’s conversations a warmer, more improvisational feel, like they’re people who happen to be real more than actors hitting their funny lines.
If this is your first time watching Bob’s Burgers, those voice actors may be a little grating. Two of the three lead female characters, the oldest daughter Tina and the mother Linda, are voiced by men. Meanwhile, Bob, the father, is voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, currently most famous for voicing the titular character in Archer. Bob and Archer share some similarities: they’re attempting to be patriarchs in situations where that’s almost impossible, they both have a love for bad jokes, and both can switch rapidly between competence and absurdity. But their situations are quite different, so while the voice can lull you into thinking they’re the same, Bob’s total lack of smoothness in the bedroom in “The Belchies,” for example, can seem jarring after Archer.
The slow expansion of the show’s universe that took place in the first season also pays dividends in “The Belchies” thanks to Tina awkwardly inviting non-family members to the treasure hunt. Sarah and Laura Silverman play the slightly off twins Ollie and Andy, while Tina has a crush on Jimmy Jr., a supposedly cool boy with a penchant for dancing his feelings. We also meet Zeke, a more jock-like friend of Jimmy Jr.’s.
The kids all go on a treasure hunt in an homage to The Goonies, which pays off most over the episode’s final credits. While it may have some parodic elements, though, “The Belchies” works perfectly well on its own. It gives Louise, the show’s delightfully anarchic breakout character, the chance to demonstrate her megalomania and her vulnerability. Gene and his id get a few moments, though he’s probably the least well-served of all the characters. Tina’s raging hormones get a major workout, as they do in any episode with Jimmy Jr., and it’s all good. There is also a giant taffy man Louise calls “Taff.” He plays an important role in her character development.
Likewise, Bob & Linda’s awkward scheduled sex – with those “spontaneous” Lick Foot sex dice – show their struggles with married life. Linda tries to carry with over-earnestness and the wrong kind of sneakiness, while Bob just can’t throw himself into the contrived romance. Neither of them are confident people, and it shows, but the humor is loving and not cringe-based. There is love there, and even some desire, but so many compromises and so much familiarity can make it difficult to find at times.
If there’s any issue with “The Belchies” it’s that the episode is somewhat lacking in big laughs, which some of its animated brethren like Archer and even American Dad succeed at causing. There’s no shortage of chuckles, though, it’s a good-humored episode in both senses of the word. As a season premiere, it’s a fine potential intro for new viewers. There’s still room for the show to get even better, though. Keep your fingers crossed.